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Pump Up Your Packaging

Proper packaging is critical to make sure your customer receives your goods safely and securely. Have you been using the same cardboard boxes and packing peanuts for years? There are new technologies and tools available to help protect your products, be more environmentally-friendly, and maybe even save a little money.

Bubble-boxThis article by Jane Porter for Entrepreneur lists three recent advances in packaging:

  1. Software to guide packaging choices. Specialized software can help you figure out the optimal combination of box size and packaging material for cost efficiency. While such software programs aren't new, recent advances have enabled them to handle products with odd sizes and shapes or mixed pallet loads of different product sizes with greater accuracy. For a small business, this kind of software could run about $1,000, depending on what features you want. If you can't afford such an investment, try contacting a university with a packaging study program, such as Clemson, Michigan State University, or Rochester Institute of Technology, which use this software as part of their curriculum and work with companies seeking packaging advice.
  2. New types of protective materials. Recent advances in void fill offer alternatives to traditional cushioning materials like Styrofoam and bubble wrap. New materials include blends of various polymers that are more effective at absorbing shock than single-blend polymers. Other void fill advances involve new methods of encapsulating air to provide cushioning for products. AirSpeed inflatable packaging is comprised of inflated air tubes or pillows that come in a range of sizes. Another newer product is the AIRmove Bubble Packing Machine, which lets you create air cushions on demand with a hand-operated device that pumps and seals air into a roll of film. According to the trade publication Packaging World, one roll of AIRmove film produces the equivalent of eight rolls of bubble wrap, cutting costs over time and saving on storage space. (But without those oh-so-satisfying bubbles to pop!)
  3. More precise pre-shipment testing. Pre-shipment testing simulates hazards your packages might encounter during transport, helping to minimize the risk of damage. ISTA (international Safe Transit Association) has developed 23 packaging protection tests that simulate how dropping, compression, vibration and changes in temperature and humidity affect different packaged products. Check ISTA.org to find out which of the 400 certified testing labs is closest to you. Depending on the level of testing, the service might cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. While this might sound like a hefty upfront investment, damaged products could cost you far more.

Do you ship hazardous materials? Berlin Packaging offers a detailed white paper providing a how-to guide to compliance for companies shipping hazardous materials. The paper is organized into three principal sections:

  • Regulatory summary – review of the major legislation and governance regarding shipping hazardous materials.
  • Step-by-step guide –outlining a reliable approach to ensure you stay within the requirements.
  • Useful partners – companies that can help you master the process and deliver advantages in execution.

You can also find guidelines and tips on the websites of the major freight carriers:

FedEx packing tips and tools

UPS packaging guidelines

USPS boxing and packaging tips